ECUSA House of Bishops: A Statement

Wed, 26 Sep 2007
From the Worldwide Faith News archives
ACNS 4322 | USA | 26 SEPTEMBER 2007

House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church New Orleans, Louisiana September 25, 2007

A Response to Questions and Concerns Raised by our Anglican Communion Partners:

In accordance with Our Lord's high priestly prayer that we be one, and in the spirit of Resolution
A159 of the 75th General Convention, and in obedience to his Great Commission to go into the world
and make disciples, and in gratitude for the gift of the Anglican Communion as a sign of the Holy
Spirit's ongoing work of reconciliation throughout the world, we offer the following to The
Episcopal Church, the Primates, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and the larger Communion,
with the hope of "mending the tear in the fabric" of our common life in Christ.

"I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians


The House of Bishops expresses sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and
members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates for
accepting our invitation to join us in New Orleans. By their presence they have both honored us
and assisted us in our discernment. Their presence was a living reminder of the unity that is
Christ's promised gift in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Much of our meeting time was spent in continuing discernment of our relationships within the
Anglican Communion. We engaged in careful listening and straightforward dialogue with our guests.
We expressed our passionate desire to remain in communion. It is our conviction that The Episcopal
Church needs the Anglican Communion, and we heard from our guests that the Anglican Communion
needs The Episcopal Church.

The House of Bishops offers the following responses to our Anglican Communion partners. We believe
they provide clarity and point toward next steps in an ongoing process of dialogue. Within The
Episcopal Church the common discernment of God's call is a lively partnership among laypersons,
bishops, priests, and deacons, and therefore necessarily includes the Presiding Bishop, the
Executive Council, and the General Convention.


* We reconfirm that resolution B033 of General Convention 2006 (The Election Of Bishops) calls
upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to
the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to
the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." * We pledge as a body not to
authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. * We commend our Presiding Bishop's
plan for episcopal visitors. * We deplore incursions into our jurisdictions by uninvited bishops
and call for them to end. * We support the Presiding Bishop in seeking communion-wide consultation
in a manner that is in accord with our Constitution and Canons. * We call for increasing
implementation of the listening process across the Communion and for a report on its progress to
Lambeth 2008. * We support the Archbishop of Canterbury in his expressed desire to explore ways
for the Bishop of New Hampshire to participate in the Lambeth Conference. * We call for
unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian


Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention

The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution
commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican
Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of
Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and
Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate
to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to
further strains on communion."[1] The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons
are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

We, the members of the House of Bishops, pledge not to authorize for use in our dioceses any
public rites of blessing of same-sex unions until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or
until General Convention takes further action. In the near future we hope to be able to draw upon
the benefits of the Communion-wide listening process. In the meantime, it is important to note
that no rite of blessing for persons living in same-sex unions has been adopted or approved by our
General Convention. In addition to not having authorized liturgies the majority of bishops do not
make allowance for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do note that in May 2003 the Primates said
we have a pastoral duty "to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual
orientations." They further stated, "...[I]t is necessary to maintain a breadth of private
response to situations of individual pastoral care."

Episcopal Visitors

We affirm the Presiding Bishop's plan to appoint episcopal visitors for dioceses that request
alternative oversight. Such oversight would be provided by bishops who are a part of and subject
to the communal life of this province. We believe this plan is consistent with and analogous to
Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) as affirmed by the Windsor Report (paragraph 152).
We thank those bishops who have generously offered themselves for this ministry. We hope that
dioceses will make use of this plan and that the Presiding Bishop will continue conversation with
those dioceses that may feel the need for such ministries. We appreciate and need to hear all
voices in The Episcopal Church.

Incursions by Uninvited Bishops

We call for an immediate end to diocesan incursions by uninvited bishops in accordance with the
Windsor Report and consistent with the statements of past Lambeth Conferences and the Ecumenical
Councils of the Church. Such incursions imperil common prayer and long-established ecclesial
principles of our Communion. These principles include respect for local jurisdiction and
recognition of the geographical boundaries of dioceses and provinces. As we continue to commit
ourselves to honor both the spirit and the content of the Windsor Report, we call upon those
provinces and bishops engaging in such incursions likewise to honor the Windsor Report by ending
them. We offer assurance that delegated episcopal pastoral care is being provided for those who
seek it.

Communion-wide Consultation

In their communiquˆm of February 2007, the Primates proposed a "pastoral scheme." At our meeting in
March 2007, we expressed our deep concern that this scheme would compromise the authority of our
own primate and place the autonomy of The Episcopal Church at risk. The Executive Council
reiterated our concerns and declined to participate. Nevertheless, we recognize a useful role for
communion-wide consultation with respect to the pastoral needs of those seeking alternative
oversight, as well as the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian persons in this and other provinces.
We encourage our Presiding Bishop to continue to explore such consultation in a manner that is in
accord with our Constitution and Canons.

The Listening Process

The 1998 Lambeth Conference called all the provinces of the Anglican Communion to engage in a
"listening process" designed to bring gay and lesbian Anglicans fully into the Church's
conversation about human sexuality. We look forward to receiving initial reports about this
process at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and to participating with others in this crucial
enterprise. We are aware that in some cultural contexts conversation concerning homosexuality is
difficult. We see an important role for the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in this listening
process, since it represents both the lay and ordained members of our constituent churches, and so
is well-placed to engage every part of the body in this conversation. We encourage the ACC to
identify the variety of resources needed to accomplish these conversations.

The Lambeth Conference

Invitations to the Lambeth Conference are extended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Those among us
who have received an invitation to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference look forward to that
gathering with hope and expectation. Many of us are engaged in mission partnerships with bishops
and dioceses around the world and cherish these relationships. Lambeth offers a wonderful
opportunity to build on such partnerships.

We are mindful that the Bishop of New Hampshire has not yet received an invitation to the
conference. We also note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed a desire to explore a way
for him to participate. We share the Archbishop's desire and encourage our Presiding Bishop to
offer our assistance as bishops in this endeavor. It is our fervent hope that a way can be found
for his full participation.

Justice and Dignity for Gay and Lesbian Persons

It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human
sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the
civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy
that does violence to them, encourages violence toward them, or violates their dignity as children
of God. We call all our partners in the Anglican Communion to recommit to this effort. As we
stated at the conclusion of our meeting in March 2007: "We proclaim the Gospel of what God has
done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion and
peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave
or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and
equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's
children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of
Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done
to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in
the name of God."

[1] The Communion Sub-Group noted that "the resolution uses the language of 'restraint', and the
group noted that there has been considerable discussion since General Convention about the exact
force of that word. By requiring that the restraint must be expressed in a particular way - 'by
not consenting ...', however, the resolution is calling for a precise response, which complies
with the force of the recommendation of the Windsor Report." The group also noted "that while the
Windsor Report restricted its recommendation to candidates for the episcopate who were living in a
same gender union, the resolution at General Convention widened this stricture to apply to a range
of lifestyles which present a wider challenge. The group welcomed this widening of the principle,
which was also recommended by the Windsor Report, and commend it to the Communion."

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